Sexual Harassment: Why do Victims so often Resign? E v Ikwezi Municipality 2016 37 ILJ 1799 (ECG)

  • Karin Calitz Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Sexual harassment; vicarious liability; direct liability; disciplinary hearing; unsatisfactory sanction; section 158(1) of the Labour Relations Act; Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder power relationships; psychological safety of a victim; close connection test; enterprise risk; second hearing; unilateral change of sanction.

Abstract

This article endeavours to find answers to the question of why the victims of sexual harassment often resign after the harassment, while the perpetrator continues working, and suggests how some of the human cost to victims of sexual harassment can be prevented. E v Ikwezi Municipality provides a classic example of how the failure of the employer to protect the victim exacerbated her suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eventually leaving her with no option but to resign. Had the employer conducted a risk analysis, it could have prevented the sexual harassment by alerting employees to the content of the Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Further, had the employer been aware that it was responsible for the victim's psychological safety also after the disciplinary hearing, it could have taken measures to ensure her safety. The unsatisfactory sanction (the harasser was not dismissed) could lastly have been referred to the Labour Court for review. Unfortunately, the wrong legal advice and an incompetent chairperson led to the municipality’s failing adequately to protect the victim. This caused (and aggravated) the symptoms of PTSD, which forced the victim to resign.

References

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E v Ikwezi Municipality 2016 37 ILJ 1799 (ECG)
Edcon Ltd v Pillemer 2009 30 ILJ 2642 (SCA) F v Minister of Safety and Security 2012 33 ILJ 93 (CC)
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Legislation
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998
Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995
Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000
Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 4 of 2000
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Amended Code on the Handling of Sexual Harassment cases in the Workplace - Gen N 1357 in GG 27865 of 4 August 2005

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Published
2019-02-05
Section
Case Notes